EU clarifies rules for travelling with pets from the UK

After years of uncertainty, UK pet owners finally know what they have to do when travelling to the EU with their best friends.

On December 3, a committee of representatives of EU countries – the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF) – decided which rules will apply to people travelling with pets from the UK to the EU as of January 2021.

The committee voted to classify Great Britain and the Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man) among the countries for which an animal health certificates is required. Different rules apply to Northern Ireland.

The decision was announced by the UK Animal & Plant Health Agency in a note to veterinarians.

At present, UK dogs, cats and ferrets benefit of the EU Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). They can travel to EU countries with a pet passport, after getting a microchip and a rabies vaccine.

According to data published by the Associated Press, some 250,000 British cats and dogs are taken on holiday to EU countries every year, and many others travel in the opposite direction.

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But as the post-Brexit transition period ends on December 31 2020, pet passports issued in the UK will no longer be valid in the EU, and the EU had to decide which other rules to apply.

The EU classifies ‘third countries’ in three groups. ‘Unlisted countries’ are those not aligned with EU regulations and therefore subject to the strictest requirements, including vaccinations and tests months before travel.

‘Part 1 listed countries’ include non-EU members of the European Economic Area, Switzerland, Gibraltar, Andorra, Monaco and Vatican City. These countries are aligned with EU regulations so they have to fulfil the same requirements of EU members, only with a different type of passport.

‘Part 2 listed countries’, which include the USA, Canada, Australia, Russia, Japan, are subject to similar requirements. But instead of a passport, travellers are required to present an animal health certificate (AHC) and this has to be issued for every single trip. Great Britain has been included in this group.

Animal Health Certificate (AHC) required

Under this regime, pets have to be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies 21 days before the departure. Owners have to obtain no more than 10 days before travel an animal health certificate (AHC) confirming the vaccination, plus tapeworm treatment for the EU countries that request it. These include Malta, Finland, Ireland, as well as Northern Ireland.

The certificate will be demanded for any travellers with pets arriving in the EU after 23:00 GMT, midnight CET, on December 31 2020. A designated Travellers’ Point of Entry (TPE) must be used to enter the EU.

UK veterinarians should start issuing the documents from December 22, according to the Animal & Plant Health Agency.

Each certificate will be issued in English and the official language of the EU country of arrival. It will be valid for 10 days after the date of issue for entry into the EU, and for 4 months after the date of issue for onward travel within the EU or re-entry to Great Britain.

“For travel to the EU, pet owners should visit their vet at least one month before travel regarding rabies vaccination, and then visit their vet no more than 10 days before travel to obtain the animal health certificate,” says Daniella Dos Santos, Senior Vice President at the British Veterinary Association.

“Our advice to pet owners is to contact their vet in plenty of time to get the latest advice and allow time for the necessary paperwork,” she added.

Different rules for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland will continue to apply EU rules due to measures agreed as part of the UK EU withdrawal agreement to avoid a border with the Republic of Ireland.

People travelling with their pets and assistance dogs from England, Scotland and Wales to Northern Ireland will therefore need to follow the same rules enforced in the EU. But there will be no changes on the movement of pets from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

A government spokesperson told Europe Street: “It is vitally important that all pet owners planning to travel know that the rules are changing after the transition period”.

“The UK government is continuing to press the European Commission to secure Part 1 listed status. The UK has one of the most rigorous pet checking regimes in Europe and currently meets all the requirements for Part 1 listed status under the EU Pet Travel Scheme,” says the government website.

On its part, Great Britain will continue to accept pet passports issued in the EU or in the UK before the end of the Brexit transition period.

Great Britain also continues requesting tapeworm treatment for dogs no less than 24 hours and no more than 120 hours (5 days) before entering the country, except if arriving directly from Finland, Ireland, Norway or Malta.

Pet owners travelling with more than 5 pets, and not attending or training for a competition, show or sporting event, must follow commercial rules for the import of animals.

However, the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), one of the main UK charities for animal welfare, has asked to reduce the number of permitted dogs to three, as investigations have found dealers have been illegally using the PETS scheme to bypass legislation on the commercial movement of animals.

Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved

This article was first published on December 15 2020 and was updated on December 16 following government clarifications on Northern Ireland. Image by Helena Sushitskaya from Pixabay

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